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Support for Afghan peace efforts reiterated

KABUL: President Mamnoon Hussain on Thursday expressed solidarity with Afghan people in their pursuit for peace and reaffirmed Pakistan`s support for a stable Afghanistan.

Pakistan continued to support and facilitate efforts for an Afghan-led and Afghanowned peace and reconciliation process, he said at a quadrilateral summit here, attended also by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

President Hussain said: `We have consistently emphasised the centrality of a political solution and underscored the need for all Afghans to join the peace talks.

`We are convinced that the road to sustainable peace in Afghanistan (passes) only through peaceful dialogue.

He said countries in the region could facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process by adopting `principles of non-interference and mutual respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity` He said that presidents of four regional countries were meeting in Kabul at a critical juncture in the history of Afghanistan. `The security, political and economic transitions under way in Afghanistan are of immense importance,` he remarked.

Pakistan, he said, had developed vision of a peaceful neighbourhood. `As part of this vision, we have reached out to all our neighbours and are seeking tobuild qualitatively enhanced relations.

`We cannot remain peaceful if our neighbourhood or region is not at peace. We face common challenges of extremism, terrorism, drug trafficking and trans-national organised crime.

The four countries are already cooperating in different formats and settings to combat and address these challenges. `Our countries are already working together on different energy and infrastructure projects, including CASA-1000, Tapi and Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline,` President Hussain added.

He expressed the hope that in addition to boosting trade and commerce in the region the projects would help reinforce efforts for reconstruction and economic development in Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan wanted to forge a comprehensive and multi-faceted relationship with Afghanistan, marked by a trade and economic partnership. `Pakistan has enhanced bilateral assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Afghanistan to $500 million.

Later, President Hussain separately met President Karzai and discussed with him bilateral relations, regional issues and enhanced cooperation among Muslim countries.

The two presidents agreed that terrorism posed a common threat to their countries and that it was important to work together to effectively combat the menace.

The two countries must continue to strengthen mutual cooperation so that their vast potential for progress and prosperity could be realised, they said.

Earlier, speaking at a function held to mark Nauroz, President Hussain said Pakistan would continue to support all endeavours aimed at promoting peace, progress and shared prosperity.

He conveyed greetings to 300 million people who celebrated Naurozaround the world.

He said the function `illustrated the cultural solidarity that our diverse countries located in West, Central and South Asia shared with each other`.

Foreign occupation In his Nauroz address, Iranian President Rouhani pointed out that Afghanistan was occupied twice by foreign countries.

Referring to the occupations by Soviet Union in the 1980s and the US and allied troops who ousted the Taliban government, the Iranian presi-dent said these `brought the unfortunate seed of violence in this country, which has damaged the lives of people and this country.

`My country, the Islamic Republic of Iran, has condemned both occupations and has helped the people of Afghanistan in both periods of time, he said.

Rouhani was in Kabul for his first official visit to Afghanistan as president. His visit came at a crucial time for Afghanistan, with national elections being held in just over a week and most US and allied troops withdrawing by year`s end.-Agencies